Many physical and mental health conditions result in other health issues. When veterans are looking for VA benefits for those issues, they would need to file a claim for secondary service connection. This post explains how secondary service connections work.
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In this article about secondary service connections
You were never quite the same after your military service. Lately, it seems like one health issue leads to another one. It may not just seem that way. Many physical and mental health conditions result in other health issues. That’s why it’s essential to understand how to claim secondary service connection for a VA disability.
What is a secondary service-connected disability?
A veteran can receive a secondary service-connected disability rating for any health condition that is medically related to a condition that’s service connected. Medical evidence must link the primary and secondary service-connected impairments, or the secondary impairment must link to another service-connected health concern.
Service-connected mental health conditions are among the most common causes of secondary conditions. Zack Evans, a VA-certified disability benefits attorney, provided this example:
“If you had a really bad back injury in service and, because of the way that changed your life and your ability to provide for your family, you experience a downturn in your mental health,” Evans said. “You get a bit depressed over your physical ailment, and your mental health condition can be connected on a secondary basis.”
How to prove secondary service connection
You must first prove your primary service-connected disability to prove a secondary service connection. Proving a service connection relies on evidence such as medical treatment, diagnosis, opinions of medical and psychological professionals, and statements from friends, family, and veterans who served with you.
To obtain secondary service connection, you need to file a VA application claiming service connection for these health issues. You must be able to prove these issues are caused by or made worse by a service connected health condition through medical evidence.
Is there a list of secondary conditions for VA disability?
There is no master list of conditions that you may be able to connect secondarily. That’s because any condition medically related to a service-connected condition can be secondarily connected. And many medical issues are comorbid, meaning they cause or are caused by another medical concern that exists concurrently.
Although there is no list of secondary conditions, there are many examples.
For instance, multiple conditions are commonly linked as secondary service connections to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including:
- Sleep apnea and PTSD
- Fibromyalgia and PTSD
- Heart disease and PTSD
- Stroke and PTSD
- Diabetes and PTSD
- Digestive issues and PTSD
- Substance abuse and PTSD
Other examples of secondary conditions include:
- Erectile dysfunction or urinary incontinence related to prostate cancer
- Traumatic brain injury and other physical or mental health concerns
- Depression related to Parkinson’s disease or cancer
How to file a VA claim for secondary service connection
For the VA to consider disability benefits for a secondary service connection, you must file a claim and be service connected for a primary disability. You can’t be granted the secondary condition until you’re granted the primary one. Although the primary and secondary conditions may be diagnosed at different times, they may be granted service connection at the same time.
The VA will usually request a Compensation and Pension exam. The examining physician will examine your medical condition and ask you questions about your service. This examiner may also offer an opinion regarding direct and secondary service connection. If the VA schedules an exam, you need to attend the exam to avoid denial of your claim.
You also can use a Disability Benefits Questionnaire to help your claim. A DBQ allows you to address symptoms, severity, possible causes, and how the condition may be related to other disabilities. A private physician also can complete the form for you.
Once the VA processes your claim for benefits, you will receive a grant or denial. If the VA denies your benefits, you may want to file an appeal. Winning a timely appeal may result in an award of monthly compensation and retroactive back pay for the time you were without benefits, dating back to the effective date awarded for the grant of service connection.
Woods and Woods can help
If you are troubled by a secondary medical issue that you think is related to your primary service-connected illness, you deserve VA disability compensation. Contact Woods and Woods to file a claim or appeal a rating decision. You only pay us if we win.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
It’s a service-connected disability for any health condition that’s medically related to a condition that’s service connected.
No, there isn’t a master list because many conditions cause other illnesses. The VA decides secondary connection on a case-by-case basis. Any condition medically related to a service-connected condition can be secondarily connected.